By Michael Doran
With the Upper Yarra fires raising concerns the CFA held a community meeting in Warburton on Tuesday 5 March but it seems some of the messages both to and from the local community are not being heard.
East Warburton resident, Kate Kite says that the issues raised in the meeting were not new and that some of the learnings from Black Saturday seem to have been lost.
“It’s sad to say that nothing much has changed and I don’t feel like the community has been listened to entirely,” she said. “There was a lot of frustration at the meeting, mainly on really important things like no phone coverage, no radio reception, power cuts and even highway roadworks happening now.”
“There was a lot of support but there was nobody there who could give us any comfort on these concerns, so we came away with nothing except that we should use multiple sources of information.”
The issue being raised is that using multiple sources of information is fine until, one by one, those sources disappear, which is the crucial point Ms Kite is raising.The loss of fixed line telephone services and poor mobile coverage is what concerns her the most.
“There was funding for a new mobile tower in East Warburton but it didn’t do much for people who don’t live on the main road,” she said. “There are still people in the area who can’t get ABC radio reception unless they get in their car and drive down to the highway.”
“If the power goes out there is no NBN, and with no mobile or radio reception they are down to nothing unless they go for a drive and all this was identified after Black Saturday.”
It’s clear that the level of community preparedness depends on access to information and it follows that if access to information is not there then people can’t be prepared.
What is clear is that the community has complete faith in the CFA to do what it does best, fighting fires and protecting lives and property where possible.
The concerns are around the infrastructure that is available to get the information out that is so desperately needed by residents in a crisis. That issue still needs to be solved.